Police switch to goose-step
The Police Force is to switch from colonial-era British marching drills to the goose-stepping style seen on the Chinese mainland to show “patriotism,” it said in a statement yesterday. The stiff-legged marching technique was first publicly demonstrated by local officers on April 15 during National Security Education Day — designated to mark Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law to crack down on dissent. Police have used goose-stepping in ceremonies and parades, but it is to become part of officers’ daily routines from July 1 — to mark the 25th anniversary of the territory’s handover to Beijing. On Thursday, the Fire Services Department announced in an annual report that it would make a similar switch before the end of the month.
Train derailment kills nine
Rescuers found four bodies overnight as they cleared the 12 mangled coaches of a train that derailed in West Bengal state, raising the death toll to nine, a railroad official said yesterday. At least 45 people were injured in the accident on Thursday, as the coaches went off the rails and three capsized, Ministry of Railways spokesman Rajiv Jain said. The rescue work was completed and the track was being cleared to restore train services in the region, Jain said. The train was on its way to Gauhati in Assam state from Bikaner, a city in Rajasthan state, when the accident occurred in Jalpaiguri District. All of the injured were being treated in a hospital, senior police officer Debarshi Dutta said. Senior railway official Guneet Kaur said the cause of the accident was being investigated. She said the government would provide financial compensation to families of the deceased and all of the injured.
Mercury hits 62-year high
Authorities yesterday told people to stay indoors as a severe heatwave along the northwestern coast pushed temperatures to a blistering 50.7°C, hitting a high last seen 62 years ago. An iron ore mining region in the northwest, Pilbara, where temperatures hit the record high on Thursday, is known for its hot and dry conditions, with temperatures usually hovering in the upper 30s this time of year. Scientists have found that rising temperatures can hit public health and outdoor labor productivity, resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses. Australia lost an average of A$10.3 billion (US$7.51 billion) and 218 productive hours every year in the past two decades because of heat, a global study published this week by researchers at Duke University showed.
Turkey, Armenia hold talks
Envoys from Turkey and Armenia were yesterday to hold a first round of talks in Moscow aimed at normalizing ties, in a move Armenia expects would lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening borders after decades of animosity. Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic or commercial ties for three decades and the talks are the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord. That deal was never ratified and ties have remained tense. The neighbors are at odds over various issues, primarily the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated or constitute a genocide.
Agency warns of espionage
The Security and Intelligence Service on Thursday warned that China and Russia are looking to destabilize parts of the kingdom, including Greenland, as the nations’ geopolitical ambitions in the region grow. Espionage and influence operations by Chinese and Russian spy services, including through cyberattacks, pose a threat against authorities, companies and research bodies in Denmark and the semi-autonomous Faroe Islands and Greenland, the service said in its first publication assessing such risks. “The kingdom is particularly vulnerable in that regard, as Chinese or Russian intelligence services can exploit controversial topics to try to create tensions in or between the three parts of the kingdom or complicate relations with allies, particularly the US,” the agency said.
Comic page fetches US$3m
A single page of artwork from a 1984 Spider-Man comic book on Thursday sold at auction for a record US$3.36 million. Mike Zeck’s artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars No. 8 brings the first appearance of Spidey’s black suit. The “symbiote suit” would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom. The record bidding, which started at US$330,000 and soared past US$3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions’ four-day comic event in Dallas. The previous record for an interior page of a US comic book was US$657,250 for art from a 1974 issue of The Incredible Hulk that featured a tease for the first appearance of Wolverine. Also on Thursday, one of the few surviving copies of Superman’s debut, Action Comics No. 1, sold for US$3.18 million, putting it among the priciest books ever auctioned. None of the sellers or buyers were identified.
Diocese sorry for gay query
A Catholic diocese on Thursday apologized for asking a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay, and whether the sexual contact might have consequently been pleasurable for him. Following wide criticism, the Bielsko-Zywiec diocese said that its letter to the court should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or have suggested that he drew pleasure from contact with the priest. The diocese dispatched the letter in response to a lawsuit by the victim, Janusz Szymik. “We apologize to Janusz and to all who have been scandalized” by the questions, the diocese said in a statement, vowing to change the letter’s wording. Szymik, who is now 48, was an altar boy when the abuse began in the 1980s. He sued the diocese in a civil court last year.
Court halts vaccine mandate
The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a blow to President Joe Biden in blocking his COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for employees of large businesses. The court allowed a vaccination mandate for healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding. Biden said he was “disappointed” in the court’s decision striking down his mandate for businesses with 100 employees or more to vaccinate or test their workers for COVID-19. “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said in a statement. The Supreme Court’s six conservative justices ruled the mandate would represent a “significant encroachment into the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees.”
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
Two years ago, Qi Jiayao visited his mother’s hometown of Shaoxing in eastern China. When he tried to speak to his cousin’s children in the local dialect, Qi was surprised. “None of them was able to,” said the 38-year-old linguist, who teaches Mandarin in Mexico. The decline in local dialects among the younger generation has become more apparent in recent years as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has sought to bolster a uniform Chinese identity. Mandarin is now spoken by more than 80 percent of China’s population, up from 70 percent a decade ago. Last month, China’s State Council promised to
DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS: Beijing is attempting to address its population decline, including considering raising the retirement age and allowing more than two children China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths last year despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis. Across China, 10.62 million babies were born last year, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per 1,000 people. The growth rate is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of May last year’s once-per-decade census, which found
‘PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE’: Authorities asked anyone who bought a hamster after Dec. 22 to hand it over after hamsters at a shop tested positive for the Delta variant Hong Kong’s government yesterday faced outrage over its decision to cull hundreds of small animals after hamsters in a store tested positive for COVID-19. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a staunch “zero COVID” policy, stamping out the merest trace of the virus with contact tracing, mass testing, strict quarantines and prolonged social distancing rules. Its latest measures target hamsters and other small mammals — including chinchillas, rabbits and guinea pigs, which authorities on Tuesday said would be culled as a “precautionary measure.” The drastic move came after hamsters sold at the Little Boss pet shop tested positive for the Delta variant of